Environment Committee Not Convinced By Multi Agency Approach To Combat Metal Thefts

Synopsis: Following a briefing from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s (NIEA) Environmental Crime Unit (ECU), the Assembly Committee for the Environment remains concerned that measures to reduce and combat the high level of metal theft1 in Northern Ireland will not be effective.

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 24 September 2012

Reference: ENV 03/12/13

Following a briefing from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s (NIEA) Environmental Crime Unit (ECU), the Assembly Committee for the Environment remains concerned that measures to reduce and combat the high level of metal theft1 in Northern Ireland will not be effective.

Committee Chairperson Anna Lo MLA, said, “In July, the Committee called on the Departments of Environment and Justice to work together and take action in order to deter perpetrators as well as introduce stronger legislation for buyers.  We are pleased to see that, since then, a multi-agency approach has been set up between the Departments of the Environment and Justice, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the PSNI.  However, the Committee is concerned that stronger measures will be needed to ensure that the increasing scourge of metal theft is abated.

Ms Lo continued: “It is clear that these agencies are doing their best to address this problem but legislation designed to protect the environment and public health along with a voluntary code of practice are not robust tools for addressing the criminality of metal theft. We need to be creative in finding ways to address those breaking the rules without making the system over bureaucratic for those legitimately trying to operate their businesses.

“A new voluntary code, developed by the PSNI, requires metal recyclers to have enhanced CCTV on premises, seek evidence of identification before payment and record of vehicle registrations and is due to come into effect at the end of this month.  In order to monitor the success of the new voluntary code, the Committee has agreed to seek evidence from the PSNI in early 2013. I hope we will see evidence of metal theft decreasing, but if not, it is essential that we look to other measures to minimise the risk to life and the huge costs to the private and public sectors that this crime is causing.”

ENDS

Background

1Incidents of metal theft in Northern Ireland have more than tripled since 2007.  The rise in demand for raw materials has led to a dramatic increase in both the price and demand for metals.  This has led an increase in theft and criminal activity regarding metal, in particular the roofs of historic buildings, utility cables and railway lines.

Year

Recorded incidents*

2007/08

210

2008/09

253

2009/10

231

2010/11

553

1st Apr-31st Dec 2011

732

 

*Information received from the PSNI on 16 May 2012. Please note that statistics have been

taken from a live crime recording system and may be subject to change.

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